Manage Occupational Risk with Behavior-Based Safety

Behavior based safety focuses on what people do, analyzes why they do it, and then applies a research-supported intervention strategy to improve what people do ~ E. Scott Geller – Building Successful Safety Teams

Behavior-based safety (BBS) turns the traditional top-down approach to injury prevention on its head by providing employees’ the tools, procedures, and environment to take collective control of occupational risk management. To be effective, this behavioral science-based approach to health and safety must include all employees from the executive suite to the factory floor as well as outside contractors.

InjuryFree_Behavior_Based_SafetyFive step process to Behavioral-Based Safety

The BBS process can be best summed up with the acronym DOIT by E. Scott Geller:

  • Define behaviors to target
  • Observe and collect baseline data
  • Intervene to change target behavior
  • Test to measure impact of intervention

A behavior-based safety injury prevention program begins with the training of volunteer safety facilitators from the workforce. It focuses on:

  1. Proactive intervention rather than reactive. The BBS approach provides proactive measures that enables employees to set goals to reduce occupational risks and prevent unintentional injury. In contrast, the traditional approach focuses on reactive intervention after an accident occurs based on the common metric of total recordable injury rate.
  2. Defining target behaviors to be observed. Target behaviors can be as basic as proper usage of PPE to more complex issues related to ergonomics. Initially, it may be best to start with more basic injury prevention behaviors to understand the process and then proceed to more advanced safety issues.
  3. Develop behavioral checklists to record occurrences. For example, if the targeted behavior is the proper usage of PPE then a checklist is developed to include occurrences related to safety glasses, hearing protection, gloves, hard hats, etc. This activity will provide your baseline data for future measurement of intervention effectiveness.
  4. Design interventions to change undesirable safety-related behaviors. The key here is to understand why the undesirable behavior is occurring and developing a strategy for prevention. Dale Carnegie once stated that,” Every act you have ever performed since the day you were born was performed because you wanted something.” With this quote in mind, the question to be answered is, “What does the employee hope to gain by not following safety protocol” and then designing an intervention to change the behavior.
  5. Test the impact of intervention strategies. Through observation and baseline data, behavior can be analyzed both before and after the intervention to test for effectiveness. If the number of undesirable occurrences is decreasing, then the intervention strategy is having a positive effect. If not, then new strategies need to be developed towards long-lasting behavioral change.

InjuryFree’s Employee Maintenance Center (EMC) utilizes a BBS approach to reduce occupational injury and illness. Strength and flexibility training, ergonomic-related injury prevention, nutritional advice, and proactive safety initiatives are all part of the package. As top-down safety programs have plateaued in many organizations, we strongly believe a proactive behavioral-based approach is the next step in the evolution of injury prevention.